Billy McGlory's Yet More, Incredibly Infamous Armory Hall

Billy McGlory
Billy McGlory


Descriptions of Billy McGlory's tend toward the hyperbolic and the homophobic:

"Brawls and bloodshed were commonplace at McGlory's. The incautious visitor who came there alone might be drugged, robbed, tossed into the street, and then stripped of all his clothing. McGlory, a former Five Points gangster, reinforced his staff of waiter girls with a flock of effeminate youths dressed in female attire, and made other equally dubious innovations. ... it was generally understood that none of McGlory's waiter girls and boys, his entertainers, or his band of prostitutes was afflicted by any puritanical inhibitions. As an entrepreneur of pleasure, McGlory took pride in his reputation for operating the most vicious and dangerous dive in New York."
(Morris, 51)

“at McGlory’s, parties of uptown visitors could sit in a special balcony above the dance floor and gaze in fascination at brawls between gangsters and thugs, but they might be robbed on leaving.” (Burrows, 957)

"All of these dives were havens of grace compared to Billy McGlory’s Armory Hall at No. 158 Hester street, for McGlory’s was probably the most vicious resort New York has ever seen. McGlory was born in a Five Points tenement before that district had been regenerated by the Five Points Mission and the House of Industry, and was reared in an atmosphere of vice and crime. In his youth he fought with and captain such famous gangs as the Forty Thieves and the Chichesters, but in the late seventies removed to Hester street, where he opened his dance hall and drinking den in the midst of a squalid tenement district which fairly swarmed with criminals and harlots.

Armory Hall became the favorite haunt of the gangsters of the Fourth and Sixth Wards and the Bowery, and of the thieves, pickpockets, procurers and knockout drop artists who flourished throughout the city. Scarcely a night passed that the resort was not the scene of half a dozen gory fights; and it was not unusual to see a drugged and drunken reveler, his pockets turned inside out by the harpies who had fawned upon him but a few minutes before, dragged from a table by one of McGlory’s capable bouncers and lugged into the street, where his pockets were searched anew by the lush workers. Frequently the latter stripped the victim of his clothing and left him naked in the gutter.

The thugs who kept the peace of McGlory’s were graduates of the Five Points and water front gangs, and included some of the most expert rough-and-tumble fighters of the period; throughout the night they strode menacingly about the dive, armed with pistols, knives, brass knuckles, and bludgeons which they delighted to use.

McGlory’s place was entered from the street thought a dingy doubly doorway, which led into a long, narrow passageway with walls painted a dead black, unrelieved by a gas light or splash of color. Fifty feet down the passage was the bar-room, and beyond that the dance hall with chairs and tables for some seven hundred persons. A balcony ran around two sides of the hall, with small boxes partitioned off by heavy curtains and reserved for the best customers, generally parties of out-of-town men who appeared to be willing to spend considerable money. In these boxes were given exhibitions even more degraded than at the Haymarket. Drinks were served by waiter girls, but as an added attraction McGlory also employed half a dozen male degenerates who wore feminine clothing and circulated through the crowd, singing and dancing. Music was provided by a piano, a cornet and a violin.
(Asbury, 170-1)

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